Wednesday, November 11, 2015

20. Rent a MINI Cooper - Revised - CHECK

When I was around thirty, I declared that the next car we bought would be a MINI Cooper when I was forty. Well here I am ten years later with a daughter, different financial obligations, and a vehicle that is paid off. This isn't the right time to add a car payment to the mix, and plus, I really like my pathfinder.  I have dreams of buying a kayak and hauling it on top.  I'm sure a MINI Cooper wouldn't want that kind of responsibility.

I put the MINI Cooper on the 4040 list as a nod to that dream that seemed impossible to achieve. The rental scenario fell through, so my friend Dan offered to test drive one with me. So in the spirit of knocking a few things off the list in pairs, I added the test drive to my train trip weekend. When this year is over and people ask me the highlights of the list, the MINI Cooper test drive will be one of the first things I name.

For one thing, I'd gotten it in my head (without doing any homework) that MINIs were way too expensive or at least more than I would dream of paying. A quick look around the dealership quickly expunged that notion. Since I am content with a used MINI, I definitely could afford one.

We picked out a 2012 black two-door MINI with heated seats and a moon roof. Those are really the only “extra features” I care about. Tom, the sales guy that approached us, was lovely. While we waited for the car, I perused the postcard stand of MINI brochures and picked out some as souvenirs. 

This one is a little plain, but I could add some stripes.

Inside the car: You're becoming a classic. Happy Birthday.
Tom told us the price, which was three thousand less than the listed price. What?!? Now I really could afford the car! 

The car was a manual, which I can drive, but it had been awhile. I pulled out of the dealership without killing the engine, thank goodness. The dealership is located just up the road from the first apartment complex I lived in when I graduated from college and moved to Kansas City.

“You know where we're going first?” I asked Dan.

“Your old apartment?”


As we headed south on the frontage road, I commented on what a smooth drive it was. 

“Your pathfinder is a truck, Julie. Of course, this is going to feel smoother.”

We pulled into the old complex, took a picture of my apartment and drove through the complex. At one point, I had to reverse, and for the life of me I couldn't remember how, and certainly not in the MINI. Dan shifted it in reverse for me and we made our way out of the complex and continued driving. 

Georgetown Apartments - my first "grown up" home

At a stoplight with my friend, Dan.
“I can't believe how much I am enjoying this. I don't feel cramped or too tall for the car. I want one. Dan, I'm going to get one someday.” 

“It's your porsche.”

“It really is. I've never cared about cars, but this is so cool.”

“The only problem is you haul a lot of stuff in your pathfinder. I don't know if you could go to something so small,” Dan reminded me.

I turned left onto a residential street and sped up. “You're enjoying this car,” Dan said. He reached up and covered the speedometer with his hands. “Guess how fast you're going.” I kept driving and then he told me to slow down when he saw the “Radar Enforced” speed limit sign. Dan's an attorney. He didn't want to have to help me out of a speeding ticket.

I turned back toward the dealership and was stopped at a red light. The intersection had a slight incline. When the light turned green, I killed the engine. I wanted to die of embarrassment. I really had hoped to not do that—especially with a “car guy” in my passenger seat. I got going again, and Dan assured me he would have done the same thing on that hill.

We returned the car and talked to Tom for awhile. I had some concerns about the size of the backseat and how comfortable it would be for Cadence. We checked out the size of the hatchback, and I was delighted that I wouldn't lose all hauling capabilities.

Before we'd started this adventure, Dan had advised me to follow his lead knowing that generally speaking dealerships are not female-friendly. It was entertaining to stand back and listen to Dan and Tom talk cars. Several times, I heard words like turbo and cylinders and thought, “They might as well be speaking German. I have no idea what they are talking about.”

Dan told Tom, “She's in the really early stages of considering the MINI, but could we have your card?” We thanked Tom for his time and the opportunity to test drive the car and walked back to Dan's car.

“Well, times have certainly changed. That low pressure approach is a welcome change to how it used to be,” Dan observed.

“If that's how they all are, I could buy a car by myself,” I said.

“The most important thing you have to know going into a dealership is your number. Know your number and don't budge on it. If they won't meet you there, then you leave.”

“Can I quote you on that in my blog post?” I asked.


Number 20 DONE.

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